The following is a contribution by outside blogger Gregory Sokoloff. Opinions expressed are solely those of Mr. Sokoloff.
For a change, I want to take a stand in defense of immigrants. Legal, illegal – all kinds, without exception. For decades now, they had been badgered, cajoled and prodded by all kinds of politicians to learn English because… And here comes the rub. No one really gives a well-argued answer. Because it will make us, English speakers, feel good about ourselves — this probably is the best summation of the reasons behind the request.
As a professional linguist, I can state with all responsibility that languages are not learned or forgotten by government decree. They are learned or forgotten because of a necessity or lack thereof. Pardon me, in our situation, the necessity is simply not there. We have allowed the creation of huge quasi-autonomous Hispanic communities all around the country, communities with their own Spanish-speaking businesses, services, media outlets and other ethnic infrastructure that makes life without English quite possible.
I have met people who have lived in these enclaves quite successfully for 20-25 years or more — without uttering a word in English because… Because they can.
By contrast, I would appeal to my fellow English speakers to get off their high horses and learn Spanish because… Because it is for our own good. Never mind that the current demographic trends in the country simply don’t favor English: by 2050 the share of the Hispanic population in our country will grow from 16 percent to almost 25 percent or more, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. And that is without counting the illegal aliens. And the share of the Anglo population will shrink from nearly 64 percent now to 46 percent.
This is the least relevant of my points. It is because learning Spanish will open your eyes on so many new things that – I promise you – it will shake up all of your established concepts – from national security to education to affirmative action.
I learned it and started watching Spanish TV channels like Univision and Telemundo about five years ago. Since then, I have learned, for example, that the true root of the current drug violence in Mexico is not the narco-cartels, but American guns that are flowing across the border. Stop the gun traffic, and the so-called “posoleros,” who stuff human bodies into old oil drums and dissolve them in acid, will immediately turn into altar boys. And anyway, all of this is the fault of American drug consumers, who push good and mama-loving Mexican boys down the rotten path.
I have learned that “narcocorridas,” sycophantic country ballads glorifying the drug trade, are really a part of Mexican cultural patrimony you should be proud to sing to your kids. That Mexico is the kindest, warmest and fuzziest country in the world, despite the fact they have all fled from it. Latinos can do no wrong. It’s the police, border patrol and other jack-booted American men and women with guns who are the culprits.
Family separation is really not when fathers abandon their wives and children in Mexico and El Salvador and wade in the dead of night across the Rio Grande. It is when ICE catches them here and sends them back, causing their separation – more often than you might think – from their second official or unofficial families. This little detail is almost always conveniently omitted.
And who is the real villain of this world, according to these networks? It’s not Mahmud Ahmadinejad, Hugo Chavez or Saddam Hussein. It’s not even Fidel Castro, whose name is not even mentioned very often anymore.
The real center of all things evil is Joe Arpaio, the tough Maricopa County sheriff from Arizona, one of the finest lawmen in this country, who is incurring the wrath of the Spanish-languages media, not to mention the Obama Justice Department, exactly because of that – his vigorous and uncompromising enforcement of the law.
The more I watch their news anchors and correspondents, the more I ask myself: Could it be that the human resource departments of these networks are run by somebody from the Cuban Politburo?
We, English speakers, can do two things: We can continue keeping our heads in the sand, pretending that the indoctrination occurring in the Spanish-language media does not affect us. While we are monitoring madrasas in far-away Pakistan, we might also learn Spanish and start also listening much closer to home because… Because we’ll thank ourselves later if we do.